Every week when we have the group meditations I am struck once again about how marvellous our bodies really are – and the brain body connection reveals just how complex the living breathing body is, and we all end up simply sitting in gratitude.
In another aspect of my varied weekly work, I meet teenagers who are navigating social skills, academic skills and the inevitable struggle of ‘becoming themselves’ within a family context that is still crucial to their daily living.
I then meet with adults who, by and large are bringing their past limiting beliefs into the present and suffering as they too try to ‘succeed’ in a demanding, often critical world of work or relationships.
So today I write with this notion of how we all develop over time, I realise that I really miss Pj’s as it was always a wonderful opportunity to observe babies and toddlers mastering their world. Within one morning session we could have a three-week-old up to a 36-month-old and the sheer elegance of the journey from helpless to helpful was a delight to engage with.
And in practice, the pandemic restrictions have actually forced a development with Pj’s – we are setting aside the notion of large group gatherings in the foreseeable future and monitoring how we may start to re-engage with smaller one-off projects in the near future. Watch this space!
My current focus then is The Learning Studio, the place where I am privileged enough to engage with all age ranges and to coach individuals and small groups through parenting concerns, academic achievement concerns, university and job applications and a trained listening ear for when we all just get stuck sometimes – relationships, alcohol dependence; stress management or pure self-development for the joy of it!
It seems that whatever age range I work with there is quite a bit of the constant comparative method that I wrote about a few weeks ago. This method in itself is sometimes helpful, and sometimes unhelpful and I assist people in making that choice and committing to action based on that answer.
We are all unique and just occasionally we can get caught up with trying to be the same or better than those around us, instead of really accepting and celebrating where we are ourselves.
The medical and psychological professions have worked hard to help us with developmental milestones and I wholly support such tools, but they are just that. We need to use them with a little caution and read the small print that will almost always remind us that we are all different and that our child may not demonstrate all the key factors within each milestone at any one time. But here are some useful sites if you are just starting out on the parenting trail:
I like this website as it is set out in a very user-friendly way, simply click on the age range of your child and have a read. There is even a free tracker app for your phone.
There is a great emphasis on approved tests and questionnaires, and this is important.
Scientists spend a great deal of time ensuring that tests used are measuring what they say they are measuring (validity) and that they measure that consistently across all users (reliability). This helps parents to be reassured that they can check their child’s stage with confidence and seek help if they have concerns.
Seeking help is crucial, and over the years, we have discovered that early intervention really does make a huge difference to later developmental milestones, like getting the best out of schooling. Some parents that I speak with are nervous to be seen as ‘wasting’ their doctor’s time.
I am assured by professionals that they would always rather be consulted and assure parents everything is ok than to miss the opportunity to assess a potential challenge early on. So be courageous for your child – the website above discusses help available in the US of course, but each health service will have a similar website to guide you to how to get help.
For the UK, I quite like this website. Easy to navigate again but with a set of ‘moving on’ questionnaires that may be helpful for parents to assess if their child is ready for nursery/preschool/kindergarten. And once again, some helpful tips on intervention that will aid development ready for school.
There is also a 60-page development timeline book to download which is informative and engaging.
This website helps with any concerns regarding our teenager’s development. And there are of course other sites that plug the 5-year-old to teens gap too. We are in an age where information is freely and easily accessible through the web, but always ensure it seems to be from a reputable source.
Once again use the tools as tools not the full truth or state of correctness. Each child and young adult is unique, so just as you wouldn’t dream of using a screwdriver to saw a piece of wood, be discerning – consider the information in terms of is it helpful? Or unhelpful? What action will I take next?
It may mean more research, but if you do have concerns that could simply be the warning flag to seek professional opinion. Take that step, do not feel that you have failed, or others will judge, this is your child, their life chances.
Finally, I do just want to remind readers of the concept of neurodiversity. As with many social norms, things are rapidly changing in the psychological and educational domain. We are finally beginning to recognise difference as a gift and learning to adapt the environment around our children to encourage the best development for them.
If your child is diagnosed with a developmental challenge there is much more help now to encourage a celebration of difference and to focus on the joy of parenting amidst the challenges. Our children help us to continue to grow and learn about ourselves too, all in good time!